Saturday, June 13, 2015

1975-76 New York Rangers Brad Park Jersey

After his first season of 1965-66 playing defense for the Toronto Marlboros in junior hockey, Brad Park was drafted second overall in the 1966 Amateur Draft by the New York Rangers. He confirmed their choice in the 1966-67 season by helping the Marlboros to the 1967 Memorial Cup championship. He would play one final season of junior hockey for Toronto, scoring 10 goals and 43 points as well as 120 penalty minutes in 50 games.

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A young Brad Park with the Memorial Cup in 1967

He played a brief stint of 17 games with the Buffalo Bisons in the American Hockey League before the Rangers called the 20-year-old Park up to the NHL as an injury replacement in November. He would never again play another game in the minors. He would play 54 games with New York during his rookie year, scoring 3 goals and 26 assists as well as 70 penalty minutes and finishing as a  +12.

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Park made his NHL debut with the Rangers

Over the next three seasons his poise and confidence would grow which allowed his offensive skills to flourish in a changing NHL, as previously defense was a mainly stay-at-home position in the six team NHL. But this was a new era of expansion, with the league now at 12 teams, which diluted the talent pool and allowed skilled skaters and good stickhandlers to thrive in this new age, a movement led by Bobby Orr that Park was at the forefront of.

Park's stats from 1969-70 to 1971-72 grew in every category, with his goals rising from 11 to 24, his points from 37 to 44 to 73, his penalty minutes from 98 to 130 while his +/- rose from +23 to +62. He was recognized by playing in the NHL All-Star Game in 1970, 1971 and 1972 as well as being runner up in the Norris Trophy voting for Best Defenseman all three seasons to Orr.

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Park defending his rival Orr

1972 proved to be a landmark season for Park, as he was called upon by Team Canada to be a key member of the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, the first time the best Canadian professionals were to face off against the dominating Olympic and World Champions, a series won by Canada. Park played in all eight games of the series, and was relied on heavily in Orr's absence due to his chronic knee injuries. Park scored one goal and 5 points during the series while only being whistled for just 2 penalty minutes, no easy feat considering the legendary stories of the quick whistles used against Canada by the Soviet's hand-picked referees! Park was chosen as the MVP of the decisive Game 8 (despite the late heroics of Paul Henderson) as well as the Best Defenseman of the entire series.

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Park was a key member of Team Canada in 1972

1972 was also the year that the World Hockey Association arrived on the scene with an aggressive tactic of singing away the stars of the NHL, such as Bobby Hull and Gerry Cheevers. The WHA came after Park too, but the Rangers signed him to a $200,000 annual contract, making him the highest paid player in the NHL at the time.

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Park was at the front of the offensive revolution among NHL defensemen

Park, having knee issues of his own, was limited to 52 games in 1972-73, but rebounded strongly with the finest season in 1973-74 when he scored 25 goals and 57 assists for 82 points as well as 148 penalty minutes in 1973-74 - all career highs.

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Park set career highs in 1974

In 1974-75, Park was named captain of the Rangers, but again limited to 65 of the Rangers 80 games, but still managed over 50 points for the fourth consecutive season. By the time the 1975-76 season was a month old, the world of hockey had changed. The Rangers had gotten off to their worst start in a decade, Park was facing criticism in New York as being "overweight, overpaid and over the hill", particularly when held up against the crosstown New York Islanders flashy young defenseman Denis Potivn.

All of this led to "The Trade", where the Rangers dealt Park, star center Jean Ratelle and defenseman Joe Zanussi to the rival Boston Bruins for star Phil Esposito and defenseman Carol Vadnais. The trade revitalized the Bruins, as Park took over for Orr, after suffering another knee injury during training camp, was limited to just 10 games that season, his last in Boston as his injuries had finally gotten the better of him.

Orr and Park photo Bobby Orr and Brad Park Bruins.jpg
One of the precious few games where Orr and Park shared the ice for Boston
(note the Massachusetts Bicentennial patch worn only in 1975-76)

Park settled in with the Bruins, and after scoring just 6 points in 13 games with the Rangers, he finished with 16 goals and 53 points for the Bruins in 43 games, wasting little time endearing himself to the fans in Boston.

Just as he had done on his arrival in New York, Park increased his stats during each of his first three years in Boston, cumulating with his outstanding 1977-78 season of 22 goals, 57 assists for 79 points and a career best +68 rating. Park would play in his ninth consecutive NHL All-Star Game in 1978, a streak that extended back to his first in 1970. He also finished second in the 1978 Norris Trophy voting for a record sixth time, the first five to Orr and the final one to Potvin.

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Park played in nine consecutive NHL All-Star Games

Despite repeatedly finishing second in the Norris Trophy voting to Orr, Park said, "I saw no reason to be upset because I was rated second to Bobby Orr. After all, Orr not only was the top defenseman in the game, but he was considered the best player to ever put on a pari of skates. There was nothing insulting about being rated number two to such a superstar."

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Park brought his offensive game to Boston

Park's next two seasons were hampered by injuries, playing in just 40 games in 1978-79, although scoring 39 points when healthy, and 32 games in 1979-80. He rebounded with three straight seasons of 75 games or more from 1980-81 to 1982-83, with his best being 1980-81 with 66 points, 111 penalty minutes and a +21 rating.

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Park played in two Stanley Cup Finals for Boston

For the 1983-84 season, Park signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent at the age of 35 and immediately set a career high for games played with 80. He also had the fourth highest assist total of his career with 53, showing that his passing skills were a sharp as ever. Thanks to his longevity and return from his two injury plagued seasons, Park was named the recipient of the Masterton Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

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Park won the Masterton Trophy while with Detroit

He would finish his playing days with one final season with the Red Wings, his 17th in the NHL and never having missed the playoffs in any season during his career.

Park would finish with 1,113 games played (despite five knee surgeries), 213 goals and 683 assists for 896 points and 1,429 penalty minutes. At the time of his retirement he was the Rangers all-time leading scorer among defensemen and second all-time to Orr on the Bruins. At the time of his retirement he was the second highest scorer among defensemen in NHL history and still remains 13th in regular season scoring and 9th in playoff scoring. He also held the record at the time of his retirement for the most seasons played without ever missing the playoffs.

Finally, on this date in 1988, during his first year of eligibility, Park was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 New York Rangers Brad Park jersey as worn during his final season with the Rangers. This jersey was recycled from the 1974-75 season, only with the captain's "C" moved closer to the arm to make room for the large 50th Anniversary patch - the first commemorative patch ever worn by the Rangers in their history.

The white Rangers jersey dates back to 1951-52 when it was first introduced as an alternative for New York to wear, especially against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers were the last of the Original 6 teams to adopt a separate home and road jersey, as previously they had worn their blue jerseys for every game, home or away, dating back to 1926-27.

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New York Rangers 1975-76 jersey photo New York Rangers 1975-76 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1982-83 Boston Bruins Brad Park jersey. Finding his customary #2 retired in Boston for Eddie Shore, Park doubled it and went with #22, the same technique used by Esposito and Ken Hodge when they arrived in New York to find their numbers 7 and 8 unavailable.

This classic Bruins style can be traced back to 1974-75 when the colored shoulder yoke was removed and the v-neck collar introduced. The secondary bear head logos arrived in 1976-77 and named were added the following year. Aside from some detail changes, such as to the font for the numbers, this jersey would remain in use through 1994-95, a 20 year run for a jersey that looks just as good today as it did in 1974.

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Boston Bruins 1982-83 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1982-83 B jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1984-85 Detroit Red Wings Brad Park jersey as worn during during Park's final season of play, having spent his entire 17 year career with Original 6 clubs while wearing their iconic jerseys.

The red version of the Red Wings jersey dates back to 1932 when they changed their name from the Falcons to the Red Wings and has remained virtually the same since.

 photo Detroit Red Wings 1984-85 F jersey.jpg
Detroit Red Wings 1984-85 jersey photo Detroit Red Wings 1984-85 B jersey.jpg

First, Park's offensive skills are on display was he scores he series winning goal in overtime of Game 7 of the Adams Division finals.

Next, the excellent Legends of Hockey profile of Park.

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